FANS had a dress rehearsal for their promotion party at Sixfields last night as Peter Jackson and his valiant men threw down the gauntlet to faltering rivals Hull City.

Andy Booth's close-range strike after 53 minutes took him to within one of a century for the club and Town to within touching distance of a return to Division II.

It was the manner of Town's stirring display, however, which set the scene for Saturday's trip to the KC Stadium and a sell-out showdown for second place in the table.

"Hull will be expecting a tough game and we won't let them down," promised Jackson, who punched the air in glee as he accepted an ovation from 1,171 of the blue and white army.

"I am so proud of my players tonight because this was a pressure occasion and they came here and fought for the shirt.

"That's what the fans love to see and they, in turn, were magnificent tonight - roaring us all the way to what is a massive victory for this football club.

"It is in our hands now because of the five-point gap back to Torquay and all the pressure will be on Hull on Saturday.

"They will have 20,000 fans there expecting them to win and there will be no pressure on my players at all.

"We will just go there, work and work and we will get the result we want."

Jackson's confidence was buoyed last night by Booth's strike, several other close efforts at goal and three world class saves by on-loan Charlton keeper Paul Rachubka to deny Derek Asamoah, Paul Trollope and Marc Richards.

Most of all, he relished the commitment of every player in blue and white and believes it will prove too powerful in the remaining games.

Mansfield and Cheltenham bosses Keith Curle and John Ward were in the crowd last night, and I'll be surprised if they weren't impressed as well.

"We've got wonderful character in the side and enthusiasm in abundance," added Jackson.

"These lads want to win for Huddersfield Town Football Club and it's a great feeling to be in the dressing room and to know they are going to go out and give you 110%.

"We knew we needed to work extremely hard up front and in midfield and then defend with our lives, and we achieved all of those aims.

"The fact that we kept a clean sheet was down to some outstanding goalkeeping from Paul Rachubka and how he kept that last one out with his feet from Richards I will never know. I just expected the net to bulge and for us to be all square again."

Booth's goal came from an excellent move in which Andy Holdsworth sent Jon Worthington racing down the right.

The gritty midfielder's cross was just too high for keeper Lee Harper to gather and he could only flap the ball to John McAliskey beyond the far post.

The lanky striker, who had another excellent game and was unlucky not to score with a shot off a post on 66 minutes, coolly laid the ball across the six-yard box and Booth was on hand to launch another wild goal celebration.

For the record, no-one was booked for it and Durham official Nigel Miller had an excellent game overall.

"If Boothy could go on and complete his 100 goals to clinch it against Hull then that would be perfect," remarked Jackson.

"He was here as a kid, came back to the club later in his career and I know how much Town mean to Andy Booth, so if he could notch that century on Saturday it would be a wonderful thing - a really special occasion."

It wasn't a bad one last night as a crowd of 6,873 enjoyed a cracking match bristling with incident and entertainment.

Josh Low, wide on the right, was the biggest danger to Town's ambitions in the first half and, with his pace and strength was able to lay on two very good chances for speedy striker Eric Sabin.

From the first, after just 20 seconds, Sabin tried a flashy backheel which didn't come off and then, after 35 minutes, he couldn't make proper contact from five yards out when it seemed easier to score.

Despite those scares, Town were dominant in the first 45 minutes and created much more goal threat.

McAliskey and Booth linked well and while the latter was to score, Macca went close with a first-half header and a blistering left-foot volley which spoke volumes for his confidence.

At that stage, Danny Schofield was making light of the two-match ban which will mean his season ends on Saturday at Hull by ripping Northampton to pieces and, at the same time, being an effective defensive player to boot.

Worthington came into his own in the second half, crashing through a series of tackles and trying a couple of shots from long range to keep Harper on his toes before he made a brilliant tip-over save to deny a Carss free-kick.

McAliskey, latching onto a Booth flick, had time and space to do better than firing over from what should have been a clinching chance on 63 minutes, and it signalled the start of a sustained spell of home pressure.

Town had some luck when Anthony Lloyd - who had three stitches in a wound - cleared a Martin Smith effort off the line, but the rest was down to Rachubka's brilliance.

HOW THEY RATED: Paul Rachubka Made three world class saves towards the end. The last, to deny Richards' free-kick with his feet, was incredible Rating: 10/10

Andy Holdsworth Another tremendous display, sticking tight to Smith, making some solid tackles and raiding forward when he could Rating: 8/10

Anthony Lloyd Had his problems with the powerful Low in the first half but got to grips in the second and got forward well at times Rating: 8/10

David Mirfin Cool and efficient, he made some excellent blocks in the box when Town came under pressure. Classy show Rating: 9/10

Efe Sodje Back in some style after his misdemeanours at the weekend, he was steady throughout to protect his goalkeeper Rating: 9/10

Steve Yates Got tricked once, by Smith, but was unruffled apart from that with a string of fine headers and battling tackles Rating: 9/10

Danny Schofield Terrific on the ball and got through a mountain of work to help contain Smith and then the Northampton subs Rating: 9/10

Jon Worthington Superb run to provide the cross which led to the goal, he got better as the match went on. Just superb in the tackle Rating: 9/10

Tony Carss Forced a brilliant save from Harper with a fine free-kick and worked his socks off to win a stack of headers Rating: 8/10

Andy Booth Scored the 99th goal of his Town career to win it and was magnificent. Top class at the back and excellent up front Rating: 9/10

John McAliskey Hit a post and fired over from the best chance of the match, but he took heed from Booth and held the ball superbly Rating: 9/10

Man of the Match: Paul Rachubka

Breathtaking second half saves denied Asamoah, Trollope and Richards to cap a wonderful team performance with a clean sheet. Looked every inch of Premiership class.

Crowd favourite Andy Booth netted his 99th goal for Town and how the travelling fans lapped up the celebrations as Northampton's brave efforts to reply were thwarted at every turn

Subs used: Northampton: Lyttle for Ullathorne 21, Richards for Taylor 59, Asamoah for Sabin 66. Town: None

Subs not used: Northampton: Westwood, Youngs. Town: Senior, Edwards, Hughes, Harkins, Scott.

Scorer: Town: Booth 53 mins.

Referee: Nigel Miller (Durham).

Bookings: Northampton: Willmott. Town: Carss, Sodje.

Shots on target: Northampton 8, Town 8.

Corners: Northampton 9, Town 7.

Caught offside: Northampton 2, Town 7.

Free-kicks awarded: Northampton 16, Town 14.

Attendance: 6,873 (Away: 1,171).